Japan is probably best-known for its modern technological society, but the country is also proud of it’s cultural identity – determined to preserve its unique traditions and rich heritage.
One such tradition is the Kanamara Matsuri Festival. “Kanamara Matsuri” means “The Lord of the Big Iron Penis....” and during the festival an enormous statue of a pink steel phallus is paraded across the city of Kawasaki. The statue is carried by a dozen men dressed as women. Locals and tourists crowd the streets to catch a glimpse of the giant penis.
According to legend, which dates back to the Edo period (1603-1867), a sharp-toothed demon fell in love with a beautiful woman but she didn’t return his affection and decided instead to marry someone else. Angered by this, the demon entered the woman’s vagina before the wedding night and bit the groom’s penis with its razor-sharp teeth. This happened again when the woman remarried for a second time. The woman then asked the local blacksmith to help and he made her a steel phallus that broke the demon’s teeth. The woman then lived happily ever after...
A shrine was built to honor the legend.... along with the steel phallus at Kanayama Temple in Kawasaki. It’s now become a symbol of prosperity. Many people still come to the shrine to pray for fertility and success in business.
And during the festival... it’s all about the penis. The stalls all sell penis-themed souvenirs, from key chains to pens, candies, toys, chocolates and trinkets. The most popular item is the penis (and vagina)-shaped lollipops. ..wonder what they taste like?
The Kanamara Matsuri Festival is also held to raise awareness of sexually transmitted diseases.
HIV is still a serious problem in Japan. According to WHO reports in 2009, there was a rise in HIV cases, affecting at least two thousand people. All profits from the sale of souvenirs’ during the festival will go towards funding HIV/Aids research.
Interested in joining the penis-parade? Mark the first week of April in your calendar and book a flight to Kawasaki!